Monday 26 February 2018

Ephemera by Sheila Ash

Junk is other people’s collected ephemera
amassed over years
accruing dust on shelves
un-tended gardens of spiders
inhabited by unfamiliar ghosts.

These physical renderings of pasts lack passion
their meaning lost to others.
Seen only in the reality of now
the stone is just a stone:
not our walk, hand in hand, along the beach at St Cyrus Sands.

© Sheila Ash, 2018

© Copyright Ian Cleland and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Guardians of the Galactic Jewel Box by Sheila Ash

The Southern Cross
guards the opening carved in the heavens
by the galactic arm of the Milky Way stretching far across the night sky.

A silk cut on velvet black
bleeding constellations of colour
into our eyes staring in awe from the edge of Fish River Canyon.

© Sheila Ash, 2018


If you want to see a picture of the southern sky from the canyon take a look at the following photo from Photographer Jean-Claude Merlin

Much better than my camera and photographic skills which could only manage

Sunday 25 February 2018

The Last Party by Sheila Ash by Sheila Ash

When I’m the last one standing
All nine bottles gone
All eight lives lived to the full
The ninth will be a song of remembrance
Toasted with the tenth

© Sheila Ash

At 17 by Sheila Ash

“And those whose names were never called
When choosing sides for basketball”
© Janis Ian, 1975

At 17, I was like Janis Ian’s song
the name not called for basketball
the mince pie left upon the plate
the one stood up on a blind date.

At 27, I ambled on adrift
sauntering tryst to tryst
waiting for Prince Charming’s kiss
lost with Morgaine in Avalon’s magic mist.

At 37, quite dejected,
career in tatters, Unperfected
lovers lost to better others:
never to become a mother.

At 47 am reinvented
I let the pass die unlamented
forgot the emptying mobile phone
forgot the lunches twice postponed.

At 57 I’d faced my greatest fears
said farewell to angst in Algiers,
found a world that welcomes smiling faces
that ageless beauty Time embraces

a 67 more content than ever
a vibrant spirit never bent, never severed
an inner strength that does not depend
on the transience of so called friends.

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Thursday 22 February 2018

Review: A Mexican Story by Alberto Barrera Tyszka

A Mexican Story by Alberto Barrera Tyszka
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story is available online at the Words without Borders website

Javier and best buddy Lencho work in the movie industry - Javier in lighting, Lencho in minor acting roles which have only twice been speaking parts, with the same few words before his character is murdered. Javier finds he is becoming infatuated with Lencho's wife, Hilda. "Which is stronger, friendship or desire?"

***SPOILER ALERT *** They begin an affair and are found out. There is a confrontation of sorts between the two men. This is a story of overtaking passion turning to apprehension and fear. There's just a hint of Mexico's troubles - the story Lencho tells of the drug lord, the home surveillance. The writer navigates this storm of emotions very well. I loved both the opening paragraph
My friend Lencho Mejía has been murdered thirty-seven times in Los Angeles, five in Tijuana, and once in a Romanian-Argentinian co-production filmed in Honduras, which came very close to being nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Only twice, though, has he had the chance to say anything before dropping dead: “You fucking bastard!” On both occasions. He had to say it quickly and quietly, but he put a lot of feeling into it. Everything he learned from Stanislavski is encapsulated in those three words. Or so Lencho always says when, at home, after his fifth tequila, he gets out his videos and forces us to watch all his deaths, one after another.
and the ambiguous, linked, ending - did Javier pick up the "large sharp knife" in the kitchen or not?

ashramblings verdict 4* A really well crafted story. Alberto Barrera Tyszka was not an author I had come across but am impressed enough to seek out more. I believe this story is in his collection Crímenes. It is translated from the original Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa, whose name I do recall from translations of the works of Fernando Pessoa and José Saramago. There appears to be one minor aberration in the translation on the Words without Borders site which is when Javier descibes the green dress he has imagines Hilda wearing the text strays for a few short sentances into the second person pronoun, "you" when talking about Hilda, instead of the third person "she" used elsewhere in the text.

View all my reviews

Monday 19 February 2018

The Shepherd by Sheila Ash

The fulcrum of the night
balances dark and light
The hope of a new day
pivots against a past
laid to black.

Tequila sunrise oranges and reds
rise from the green flash.
Eyes a daze
he stands and stares ahead
into the wide expanse
of old horizons.

Sorrow buried deep in white
clouds of time gone by,
A love let go
in pain and anguish,
A life taken
way before its time.
Remembering refills his eyes.

Verdant meadows sway with
gentle puffs of spring
colour awakening to the wind
brushing its green rain
over the high mountain plateau.

Snow caps linger on
like the last remnants of the old man’s hair.
Clinging to the peaks
as the sun
heats the mountain’s brow
heralding a new season.

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Thursday 15 February 2018

Opinion : Cortland Review, Issue 78, Feb 2018 (Part 1 of 2)

Why are poetry books so expensive? At 10GBP PLUS per short chapbook pamphlet this keeps poetry elitist, out of reach for the stretched pockets today, especially if you want to read a cross section of modern poets this cost would soon mount up and easily get out of control even for the well off. Further many poetry books do not seem to ever make it to the e-book format.

Magazines aren’t much better. In today’s global internet based world, the printed issue which frequently doubles in price for international postage also becomes unobtainable, and many are not available in digital format.

I have decided to explore a number of online Poetry Magazines which are free. I’m not doing these in any particular order other than the order I come to the  magazines.

The opinion given herein, and in following opinions, is my own, first impression both of the Magazine and the poems. Readers of this blog will know I write Reviews of books and Short Stories as much as a reminder to myself of the individual story and which ones I have read, however I am novice when it comes to reviewing poetry so feedback welcome.  Here goes.


Today’s is the Cortland Review Issue 78 February 2018 @CortlandReview 

Its editorial claims it has “new poems by Sally Bliumis-Dunn, Collier Brown, Grant Clauser, Ann Conway, Robert Cording, Chris Crew, Matt Daly, Roger Desy, Mark Dow, Glenn Freeman, Beth Gylys, Julia Leverone, Valerie Nieman, Simon Perchik, Todd Robinson, John Sibley Williams and Philip Terman” and fiction “by Juan Alvarado Valdivia and Jade Freeman.”

Each poem in this quarterly journal comes with its own audio reading. I really like this as it lets me, as a reader, also listen to how the poet reads her/his own work – their tone, their emphasis, their breaks and pauses – this greatly enhances my own read, my enjoyment, my understanding. Its the two together which make the differences hearing it read and seeing the poem’s layout, together.

Today I have read the poems by

Sally Bliumis-Dunn
Collier Brown
Grant Clauser
Ann Conway
Robert Cording
Chris Crew
Matt Daly

none of whom I have read before. Here’s my initial thoughts on each. My thoughts on the others from this Issue will follow in a subsequent post.


Snow by Sally Bliumis-Dunn

6 stanzas each of 3 lines in which she recalls the aftermath of her a loved one’s death in hospital in terms of the removal of the body, the renewing of the white bed linen. The trigger for this being a snowfall in her back yard covering all the items left there – the trowel, the rake, the dog’s ball , just as the black vinyl bag covered the body on the hospital gurney. Contrasts of what is hidden by the white and black in that moment of vacant staring about at the world during grief.


Brother by Collier Brown 16 lines Can’t say I relate to this poem. It seems to be about hunting, is the Brother of the title the hunted fox? . What stands out are the sounds employed in end of line rhymes and mid line lines and visual rhymes - aabbccddxxxxffgg Lines 1-8 are rhyming pairs, as are lines 12-16 although the reading  doesn’t force the rhymes it shows them. Lines 1-8 show the rhythm of the hounds circular territorial walk round the places where it has buried its kills and left its scent.  Lines 9-12 has the rhyming “choke” “speak” “teeth” “creek” and I suspect the jarring of “choke” is an intentional hard “k” echo into “speak” but I fail to understand why the poet should have chose this ‘discord’ in the middle section of his poem.


Trouble Light by Grant Clauser

This is a beautiful memory of a past father found through thinking about all the things the speaker witnessed his father doing when he was a child – fix the broken station wagon, fix the dog’s trapped leg. All this trouble, which needed a father to fix, happened in the dark, a child’s fear we can all relate to. I loved the phrases

“when the dark
was a problem you could solve
with tools and anger”

and the finale, where he still sees, recalls his father

“his light,
hanging in the shed, the garage,
keeping the dark cracks
from getting too large.”

Probably my favourite of the ones I have read thus far.


My Friend, Lost by Ann Conway
Another poem I just don’t get. On my reading its 15 lines didn’t run smooth and this is where the author audio really helps – it gave me the momentum of the poem.

It seems to be about someone who has lost a friend, possibly to war?  Whereas the town has moved on, forgotten its dead, the speaker has not. The friend is now only present in the speaker’s dreams, as noises haunting the kitchen, But why the final line “I was sick of those goddam Yankees”? There is no other hint, to me at least , of this being set in the US Civil War time, although I suppose “cicadas” only to be in the US South. Lost on this non-American.


Two Photographers by Robert Cording

A poem in 2 parts, each about an art photographer – the first Josef Sudek’s Egg, the second about Diane Arbus’ Vineland photographs. I knew neither artist, so how did reading this poem inform me about what to expect when I ‘googled’ them?

Josef Sudek appears to have a preoccupation with eggs! But more his work is post war still lifes with mundane objects such as an egg, a glass of water, placing these in different situations equally mundane and everyday  - a table, a saucer - and  using his skill as a photographer to capture the line between “light and shadow” – the before and after of the war? But also the singularity, the “selfhood”, the defined outline of the egg shape as a “focus to quiet the mind” amidst the turmoil past and present. Having ‘googled’ him, his photographers are stark – bread, water, egg – pretty basic nutrition – stark reminders of destitution, poverty and necessity, of hard times and survival. He was a Czech photographer born 1896, died 1976 

I also learnt a new word “gnomen”

“On a saucer, the egg
a gnomon shadowing the line

between before and after. “

According to the dictionary gnomen is
(1) the projecting piece on a sundial that shows the time by the position of its shadow.
Astronomy - a structure, especially a column, used in observing the sun's meridian altitude
(2) Geometry - the part of a parallelogram left when a similar parallelogram has been taken from its corner.

The second part, entitled Transparency (Vineland photographs, Diane Arbus), is a complete contrast. The photographs are about people it is not clear who, but the photographer  appears to be in the picture with her subjects, reminiscent of an anthropologist encountering a primitive tribe.. The result a sensation of who is looking at who in the zoo. As voyeur we ‘see’ elements of ourselves in these subjects

“in those mismatched, out-of-date,
ill-fitting outfits we recognize as our own”

But their  “stare at her camera” remains childlike, unknowing, primitive and

“even if we tried to be

this naked and vulnerable, could never escape
the awareness that has us looking at them

as if we were relieved for being who we are,
then apologetic for that failure in ourselves.”

Imagine my horror when I ‘google’ the photographer and this series of photographers and find they were taken at Utah State Hospital for the institutionalized mentally retarded.

Did Robert Cording do a good job?Yes, for me his poem captures the essence of both these artist’s works and the two pieces sit well together in one poem - the sheer contrast between the distinctly different styles, approaches, and subject matter.


From a relief pitcher's death, I learn by Chris G Crew

On first seeing this poem I thought it must be some kind of mesostic, text found within another piece, but it  lacks the meaningful central vertical line . Instead, after reading it, I am of the opinion it is diagrammatic of the boat propeller’s shaft, central to the poem’s narrative, the circumstances surrounding the swimmer’s death.

I loved the phraseology that painted the picture of boats which “turtled along the beach” , the cyclic nature of  “all movement is borrowed from stillness” , the boat’s propeller as “the windmill toward home” .

I have difficultly with the beginning and the end – the initial “the same day we washed February from my father’s body” would appear to be self explanatory but what relation does it hold to the rest of the poem, except happening at the same time? And the point of the finale  escapes me “the finer points visible only to those living each turn of those astronomical years”

On doing a bit of investigation I found this 2015 story of Caracas Lions / Seattle Mariners pitcher Victor Sanchez which may have been the inspiration for the poem


After Tony Write to Me About Dogen by Matt Daly

Even with the title of this 11 line poem I had to consult the oracle – Google told me who Dogen was, a Japanese writer , poet and philospher from the 13th century who wrote the first Zen monastic code  ( ) . Having that piece of information this poem is a reflective, contemplation on diet and lifestyle choices. The speaker considering himself appreciative of his breakfast of  “granola with almonds, walnuts, cranberries and milk rather than plain oatmeal” which it is to be assumed is what his probably vegetarian friend Tony of the title and other advocates of Dogen’s Zen lifestyles would be having , even though his non-vegetarian stomach remains wishing for something more substantial.


ashramblings verdict – I like the format of the Cortland Reviw on the web., especially approving of the presentations of audios. My favourite poem of those read thus far is Trouble Light by Grant Clauser   - its language is very accessible, and I think anyone who has grown up with a father figure around in their childhood can relate to its narrative and sentiment.

Wednesday 14 February 2018

Review: Kelemo's Woman by Molara Wood

Kelemo's Woman by Molara Wood
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This short story can be found at and in Molara Wood’s short story collection Indigo

This is the story of the choices made by a young Nigerian woman at the time of a military coup. Her mother has died and she is alone except for Kelemo who is a political activist. They have to spend their lives 'ducking and diving' trying to keep one step ahead of the authorities. She has nothing and has no identity outside of being “Kelemo’s Woman”. On her death bed her mother bemoans her own life spent in the wake of men “Iriola, trust no one. Allow yourself to be pulled down by no one. I mean, no one. Don't be like me, slaving all my life to stand by men and for what? To die of a wasting disease before my time? Iriola, I beg of you. If the house is falling or the boat is sinking, secure for yourself a safe landing. A comfortable patch. Now you will have no mother. The person to watch over you, is you." When the soldiers come to her supposedly safe house what choices does Irioko make? How does she survive?

I think this story is one of those "glass half full - glass half empty" reads depending on how you read it, whether you read the mother's death bed words as urging Iroko to take the safe comfortable route to survival or to find a secure landing from which to get out from all the chaos.
Only in the direst conditions are we faced with the burden of such choices, we have no time to consider their consequences, no power to forgo making them, for they are placed on us by those weilding power. Only if we survive can we tell, can we expose. Think Sophie's Choice, think #MeToo.

For me its a story about survival, about the costs of survival, for the voiceless multitudes. It is about a Africa lost , be it to the wasting of HIV/AIDS, be it to post colonial vacuums caused by trying to continue the "British sitcom" only to end up being taken over by a game of chess, power played by groups of wannabees who are but boy soldiers exercising petty power. Tongue in cheek it may be saying it is time for change #NoMore

View all my reviews

My life in shoes by Sheila Ash

At first there were a pair of handmade crocheted bootees
Surpassed, for the photographer hired to capture my christening, by white round toed Mary Jane’s.
At 5 I was in red leather Clarks Joyance ‘school’ sandals, T barred with a pattern of holes
At 11 I chose white leather moccasins with 1in rubber heels.

My very own ballet shoes replaced the shared black canvas gym pump pile that fell out of primary school cupboards
A pair of flaming flamenco red dance shoes with Tone King taps brought colour to my cheeks
The elegance of strappy sparkling gold “Strictly” ballroom heels to spin in.
But the true pleasure was playing out in the wet and mud in Wellington boots.

Disco nights in Mod white leather knee high Go-Go boots
mock André Courreges, no ‘Pretty Woman’ Cuissarde over the knee boots for me,
No Dr Martens either, instead the black and white canvass
of American baseball boots and sneakers.

I klomped around in wooden Scholl’s
Craving the comfort of my Birkenstocks skin
Beachcombing in my jelly shoes
Slipping lately into Oakley ‘jangles’ to flip flop my way bravely to bare feet.

I loitered in Loafers, ran in Desert boots and Reebok Pumps
Proudly polished my Charles Jourdan brogues.
I suffered wide fit Van Dal’s for work – a token gesture to office conformity
Preferring my riding boots, their Cuban heels, my Moon boots in the snow.

Today I live in a rainbow of Merrells
Boots, shoes and sandals
Comfort from first to last
slipper of my evening.

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Sunday 11 February 2018

Makemo by Sheila Ash

A mirror’s edge horizon
cuts the endless blue sea from the endless blue sky
with only a scattered motu, a motionless cumulus.

Velvet blue waters team with life uninterrupted
as the soft melodious chug of the engine takes us in
and rouses the morning watch.

The dying embers of a fisherman’s fire
-yesternight’s waning warmth -
signals the dawn of the coming day.
© Sheila Ash, 2018clip_image001

Friday 9 February 2018

Cheddar Man by Sheila Ash

A pair of sapphires sparkling with joie de vivre
Lighthouses from another era
Beaconing forth below his long dark hair
Uncut by modern vanity
His meat eater’s embouchure
Taught and strong
The hunter gatherer of yester-year
Stands proud in his dark skin
While is paled ancestors gaze in bewilderment
At their reversed image.
© Sheila Ash, 2018

Thursday 8 February 2018

Review: The Dancer by Bashir Sakhawarz

The Dancer The Dancer by Bashir Sakhawarz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Thsi stry is available online

In the #MeToo age here is a sad story about paedophilic abuse of a young 8 year old boy struggling with hunger and poverty on the streets in a war torn Afghanistan. His need for food makes him susceptible to the whims of an older powerful man, Akram with the position of army Commander, who traffics him far away. The boy's naivety makes him confuse the receipt of food and drink, a place to stay and schooling in dance as love, the abuser as more than the forgotton father who had abandoned him in a now forgotton place. He lives with Akram "in a big fortress with his children and wives, guarded by his private soldiers" in "a big room at the entrance of the fortress" and learns "the art of dancing from the best dance teachers, accompanied by excellent musicians."

***SPOILER ALERT *** Shrouding the older man's abuse in illegal same sex marriage bought with a brib to the mullah, the young boy is painted and dressed as a woman, dances for the men's entertainment, performing like a well taught pet. Now 14 years old, he is the best dancer "in the province of Farkhar" But in his cloistered life, he is the only one who does not know his ultimate fate
"He doesn't know but the moon above the cloud, the cloud above the mountain, the mountain on the shoulder of the earth, the earth on the back of a dragon know that some years later when the boy is just sixteen years old everything will change. But at the moment he is the moon on the calm water of the lake, the sun behind sutton cloud, the gentle breeze in the summer, the canary, the music. He walks on the heart of the men and his footprint remains. They have seen many boys before him but not like him from heaven, a ghilman. He is king and queen at the same time, king of dance, queen of Akram."

The boy's life will turn full circle when he is too old for the Commander's desires, becomes the discarded play thing, flung out onto an unknown street without friend or food once again. Although set in Afghanistan, the impact of what the story tell is universal - the cyclical sadness of poverty, the cruel disregard by the perpetrators of abuse for the humanity of their victims.

Note Ghilman (singular Arabic: غُلاَم‎ ghulām ,plural غِلْمَان ghilmān) were slave-soldiers and/or mercenaries in the armies of the Abbasid, Ottoman, and Persian Safavid, Afsharid and Qajar empires.

View all my reviews

Review: Girls Fine as Beeswing by Elaine Chiew

Girls Fine as Beeswing Girls Fine as Beeswing by Elaine Chiew
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This short story is available online

A young 15 year old Gracie is taken for a slap up lunch by her grandfather whom she loves and whom she likes to see enjoying himself in her company. She tells him about school , her art projects. Their meal is indulgent - Pouilly-Fuissé, Bordeau, Beef Wellington, Bresse pigeon with Savoy cabbage - this old grandfather likes the finner things of life, he considers himself something of a connaisseur of life's indulgences "Beeswing is the filmy crust on old port". He drinks a bit too much, gets annoyed as she tells him of her first kiss and encourages her instead to tell him more about her girl friends. As a good grandfather he gives her a gift, one which brings her to tears of delight "The box was embossed in fine papyrus; inside lay a quill ink-pen. The feather was long and elegant, speckled with daubs of brown. The pen's body was a rich mahogany red, the nib a dull gleam of gold."
***SPOILER ALERT*** But the glorious quill is never used, it is abandoned "deep in my drawer with all my girlie hair things" Why this should have happened is in the partially exposed under story, written just enough into this story so that the reader can envisage what happens outside of this scene in the restaurant. Nicely done.

ashramblings verdict 4* The strength of this work lies in what is partially exposed, partially hidden, behind and within this story of a grandfather and grand-daughter's lunch.

View all my reviews

I by Sheila Ash

I am the other inside
The doubt, the fear, the apprehension
Lying hidden behind a gregarious charade masque.

I am the other inside
The strident, the assertive, the outspoken
Concealed in a gormless gomeral’s gaze.

I am the other inside
The hermit, the recluse, the monachal
Obscured in a nomadic djellaba of the knight errant

Outside I am the sum of many others
Balance forged like tempered steel
In the furnace of life.

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Tuesday 6 February 2018

Review: The Lament of Hester Muponda by Petina Gappah
The Lament of Hester Muponda by Petina Gappah
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a very poignant, quite short, story of a women's life which I fear is all too common. Hester Muponda looses 5 children one by one, then her grandchildren one by one, then her husband moves out and moves in with his mistress. Each time the gossips talk, her church people encourage her to have faith, but no one gives her any sympathy. She is surrounded by the "stench of grief". ***SPOILER ALERT *** Destitute, she starts to cook sadza, chicken stew and vegetables for the bus drivers who come to a cigarette and newspaper stall. There in a neighbourhood changed beyond recognition since Independence, she finally dies and the only people who "felt her absence were those drivers and conductors who missed firm but soft sadza and the chicken stew"

View all my reviews

The Beautiful Dawn by Sheila Ash


I once dreamt of her, The Beautiful Dawn,
Softly humming James Blunt
While watching you sleep.
The white voiles breeze in the open windows
Caressing the morning’s silent entrance
The sun stirs as you should be
The coral sands and blue waters call
The sail is up, the wind astern
Outward to the ocean
To the endless horizon of dreams
We set sail.

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Monday 5 February 2018

Vampire Crossing by Sheila Ash

I gorge on their succulent and juicy flesh
To satisfy my thirst
And live another night

To fly free with the wind
Across the campos and barrios
Till daybreak’s repose.

I hunt alone
Stalking the mean streets of Tijuana
Waiting for them to slip

Down the desolate desperate alley cuts
To a home which never comes.
Instead my gift -

a bloodied oblivion
Or deliverance to the Lord of the Eternal Night.

5th February, 2018

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Sunday 4 February 2018

Elegy for Ursula Le Guin by Sheila Ash

No time left now
The light is extinguished
The chair unoccupied
The pen abandoned.
Their tales of earth, sea road,
of fire and stone. Ever read immortals
Unlocked the air of admiration
in the altered I.
The city of illusions lies
Shrouded in darkness
As the unreal and the real collide
We hear the dispossessed voices
Render the language of the night
When wild angels rode the wind
To rob us of the truest name

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Saturday 3 February 2018

Review: Chekov and Zulu by Salman Rushdie

At the Auction of the Ruby SlippersThis story can be found online at

All I can say about this one is that it is a pseudo spy story which is constructed via a fantastic merger of western pop culture by using Chekov and Sulu two characters from the sci-fi series Star Trek as inspirational nicknames for two Indian residents in the UK during the time of the assassinations of Indira Gandhi and then Rajiv Gandhi. The story shows the friendship between old school friends now working within the Indian Secret Service The choice of names reflects how they see themselves "not the leaders....but the ultimate professional servants". But their friendships is put under strain following the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh bodyguards following the Indian State's attack on the Sikh Golden Temple at Amritsar. They never meet again. One resigns, returns to Bombay to work in private security and lives out a good, prosperous life; the other continues to work in his diplomatic position in London unable, unwilling to take a stance on terrorism. Ultimately this becomes his downfall as he is caught up in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi by Tamil Tigers some years later. "The tragedy is not how one dies. It is how one has lived"

I read this story as part of Salman Rushdie's short story collection East, West. My Book Review

ashramblings verdict 4* Very, very clever. Whether it is too clever may depend on your knowledge of both Star Trek and Indian history.

Friday 2 February 2018

Review: Don't Let Them Catch You by Molly Patterson

Don't Let Them Catch You Don't Let Them Catch You by Molly Patterson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Upfront I shall say that the author is the daughter of an ex work colleague. He proudly shared with me the publicity surrounding her first novel Rebellion. So I thought I would check out her writing. I found her website and this story available online at .

This story is narrated in the voice of 11 year old Kaitlyn. She lives with her 14 year old sister, Brandy, and their mostly absent mother and attends piano lessons with Mrs Duncan which have been organised by her Uncle Mike before he left for military service in Afghanistan. Brandy is supposed to collect Kaitlyn from her lesson but doesn't and instead the young girl has to walk the 9 blocks home.

Her imagination runs riot, taking the story of a local kidnapping of a girl, Kaitlyn doesn't like the look in the eyes of car driver at the stop sign as she crosses the 4 laned street, in the man smoking on the stoop who scans her as she walk along the street. Patterson creates the voice of the young girl very well and her pacey prose sweeps you along as Kaitlyn walks home, her imagination tempering her fear by creating romanticised stories of her own abduction at the hands of a man whose house is "on top of a waterfall, somewhere in Italy or maybe Japan" who wants her "to play music for him for the rest of his life" Her beautiful playing makes him weep and "he has to set me free"

Once home she finds the door key is not in its hiding place and so she hides behind a bush until her sister returns home having been out with her much older boyfriend Chaz. She doesn't like being out in the dark as this is "when the thieves come out" and "the crazy people who could run up to you from behind and push you down on the ground". Kaitlyn is a typical latch key child, but not old enough, not responsible enough, to have her own key. She doesn't want to be alone in the house, she hates the TV being on with no one watching it, her sister too preoccupied 'making out' behind a locked bedroom door with Chaz. She know about not going anywhere alone with a stranger. But who consitutes a stranger? At school the teacher had asked if the mailman was a stranger and the class had chorused a resounding 'yes'. But outside of the classroom, just who does consitutes a stranger?

ashramblings verdict 4* Pacey prose, authentic voiced story of growing up alone.

View all my reviews

Review: Lederhosen by Haruki Murakami

Lederhosen Lederhosen by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This story is available online at and in Murakami's short story collection The Elephant Vanishes

A man's wife's friend turns up very early for dinner, as conversation begins to run out she tells him the story of how her parents divorce was "all because of a pair of shorts" or more correctly lederhosen. Her mother had gone to visit family in Germany. She'd never travelled alone in all her 55 years of life. According to the friend, her father was a hard worker, and although her parents never argued, there had been rows over him and other woman. Her father asks her mother to bring back a souvenir, a pair of lederhosen for him, she agrees to do this ****SPOILER ALERT*** but he never gets his lederhosen.

Lederhosen are often viewed as comical apparal outside of their cultural context, layer this on top of that the vision of a Japanese man wearing them and you get the picture. Murakami's writing often contains a moment of epiphany. Unable to buy lederhosen because the store will not sell them without the wearer being present to ensure correct fit and maintain the stores proud reputation, the mother finds a stranger as a standin. Watching this ludicrous lederhosen clad man provides that pivotal moment in the mother's life allowing her to reflect upon her marriage and her feelings for her husband.

ashramblings verdict 3* Why she tells this story we never know. Are there any parallels between the daughter, the friend's husband and his absent wife and the daughter, her father and absent mother? This is a story about how a novel experience has a profund effect on the mother who never returns home to her husband and daughter, but leaves us wondering exactly how profund an effect this also had on the daughter who never married and fill her time teaching electric organ and playing tennis, skiing and swimming.

View all my reviews

Thursday 1 February 2018

Review: Acuérdate - Remember by Juan Rulfo

Acuérdate Acuérdate by Juan Rulfo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story is available online in the original Spanish at and in English at https://latinamericanshortstories.fil...

Not until the end of this story is the reason revealed for the narrator's rambling on about how "we" must remember Urbano Gómez. We hear about who is is, what he did, that he was more or less our age, and who his parents and sisters were. It is as if the narrator is speaking directly to us, that "we"are the recipient of the narrator's urging to remember Urbano, that "we" knew him, and ***SPOILER ALERT*** ultimately that "we" had a part to lay in his end because it is "us" who taunted him when he was expelled from school, who avoided him and left him to be friendless.

ashramblings verdict 4* The writer relentlessly draws the reader into the collusion and in doing so "we" essentially confess our role in Urbano's fate. Nicely done.

View all my reviews

Review: No oyes ladrar los perros by Juan Rulfo

No oyes ladrar los perros No oyes ladrar los perros by Juan Rulfo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is available online in the original Spanish at and in English at

An almost one sided night time conversation between a father and son. The son is unwell, most likely injured, and, slipping in an out of consciousness, is being carried on the shoulders of his father. His father is unable to put his son down until they get to their destination for fear of being unable to lift him up again. He is seeking the village of Tonaya which he has been told lies just beyond the hill he has climbed over. He believes their is a doctor there.
***SPOILER ALERT***There does not appear to have been a good relationship between father and son prior to this time. The focus of the story is less on why the son has ended up in this position than about the father's determination. To keep going the father curses his son, his ill-spent time in bad company, the death of his own wife in childbirth. Bowed under his son's weight and walking at night the father is unable to see, he keeps asking his son if he can see the village, if he can hear the village dogs barking - anything to know how much further he must carry his burden, anything to keep his son from drifting into unconsciousness.

This is a story of parental love, parred back to its bones to capture the father's despair and struggle in just 2 pages.

ashramblings verdict 3*

View all my reviews